The Bannerman hut at the bottom of this pass makes this one of the very popular passes in the Drakensberg. It’s a very short pass and you’ll find yourself at the top in no time at all. Despite its relative ease, it is still quite a fun pass to do with the final section heading up a narrow rock-filled gully. No real scrambling is required to do this section and it is therefore a great pass to do when you are new to the Drakensberg.

* * (3/10)
Difficulty of the pass is rated from 1-10 (10 being very difficult, only to be attempted by the fit and experienced). A subjective quality rating is indicated by the number of stars (1 being low, 5 being the highest). Factors such as scenic beauty and overall experience come into play here, which may differ from person to person.

An 11 km hike from the Giant’s Castle Lodge will get you to the Bannerman Hut at the base of the pass. Just follow the Bannerman Path and turn right (north) up the contour path. After 4.5 km along the contour path, a path leading to the hut branches off to the left.

The distance from Bannerman Hut at the base to the top of Bannerman Pass is 3 km with an altitude gain of 800m.

From the hut, a clear path gently climbs up the wide river valley for the first kilometre. Once you have rounded the bend in the valley and can see the top of the pass, the going gets a little steeper as the path climbs up past a small waterfall and then up a small ridge. The path then enters a scree field before contouring into the final narrow gully of Bannerman Pass. This gully is easily doable except when there is snow around and gains the last 200m to the top. The path disappears here but it’s obvious where you have to go so just make your own route up the narrow gully to the top of the pass at 3100m.

Finding the pass from the escarpment:
The pass starts high up on the slopes of the Bannerman Face just south of Gypaetus Point. It is the only obvious gully in the area and is marked with a cairn and a path.

Overnight Spots:
The Bannerman Hut at the base of the pass is a hut which has to be booked and paid for before you can use it. Spare Rib Cave is located on the southern slopes of the pass just before the scree field. You have to contour along a side path past a smaller cave and around the corner to the roomy cave which sleeps 12 people. There is, as always, lots of good camping on the escarpment.

There is tap water available at the Bannerman Hut and there is also a seasonal stream which the path follows for the first kilometre. This water source runs dry just above the small waterfall and the next available water is in a river on the escarpment, 100m from the top of Bannerman Pass.

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Sabine's Avatar
Sabine replied to: #75068 12 Jun 2019 10:38
Looks like an interesting variation to a trail I have done too many times already
Ryan's Avatar
Ryan replied to: #75059 08 Jun 2019 13:24

We are doing this old route again next weekend. Haven't been out in the berg for a while now so picking the easy options to get warmed up before we tackle something harder again.
I was busy planning and thought I would post a google earth pic to illustrate what happens if you do not cross the Sanqebethu ridge after reaching the top of Bannerman's like Ghaznavid mentions in his pass writeup(we did some extra walking). I used WarrenM's trail run track he posted (thanks Warren) as well as my own from the last time we did it 3 years ago and exported to GoogleEarth - looking at it this way makes it easy to zoom around and pickup where the caves are as well
In the end it actually worked out because we overnighted behind a rock wall on one of the lesotho peaks in heavy wind and snow- if we had been in the valley where we were supposed to be we would have been blown away as some other guys hiking same pass experienced
If anyone wants the kml Google earth file - let me know and I'll post it

Mountain Goat 007's Avatar
Mountain Goat 007 replied to: #74542 15 Jan 2019 09:34
I have done this many times and just pay to over night camp then stay at the old campsite at Giants castle. Obviously no electricity or showers but they have a toilet. 
swordfish's Avatar
swordfish replied to: #74537 14 Jan 2019 18:42

HikerParsons wrote: Good afternoon. I am planning to hike Bannerman pass and want to get an early start from the Wildlife Office. Can anyone suggest a decent campsite to use close to Giant's Castle KwaZulu Natal Wildlife Office?

I was told one can camp at White Mountain Resort just few kms down the road. However I haven’t used them myself yet -
HikerParsons's Avatar
HikerParsons replied to: #74536 14 Jan 2019 16:44
Good afternoon. I am planning to hike Bannerman pass and want to get an early start from the Wildlife Office. Can anyone suggest a decent campsite to use close to Giant's Castle KwaZulu Natal Wildlife Office?
HikerParsons's Avatar
HikerParsons replied to: #73330 30 Apr 2018 15:00
Thank you. Much appreciated!
WarrenM's Avatar
WarrenM replied to: #73329 30 Apr 2018 14:42
Hi Hikerparsons. Try this it was my route from last year. Sorry don't t have them as separate routes, but I hope this works for you.. (Up langalibalele down Bannerman)
HikerParsons's Avatar
HikerParsons replied to: #73321 29 Apr 2018 19:26

Does anyone have gps co-ordinates for the following routes:

Giant's Castle Main Camp to Bannerman Pass; and
Langalibalele Pass to Giant's Castle Main Camp.

The co-ordinates which I downloaded from VE does not seem to be working with Sunnto.

Any help will be greatly appreciated.
ghaznavid's Avatar
ghaznavid replied to: #59176 05 Dec 2013 19:16
From my first failed Popple attempt:

The view of Bannerman Face after the storm had come to an end:

Zooming in on the wrong cave (right one is so close):

The cave from nearby:

Bannerman Face from just outside the wrong cave:

Bannerman Falls (well - 3 of them):

As much as I don't like Bannerman Pass, it is a really beautiful route. However Gypaetus Pass kicks it for views and is a much more pleasant and less rocky (but very steep) route...
tonymarshall's Avatar
tonymarshall replied to: #59175 05 Dec 2013 18:50
A pity, the correct Spare Rib Cave is not that bad, although I guess you guys aren't alone in making this mistake. Spare Rib Cave is damp, but the sleeping areas are level and clear of moss, although quite spread out, and the cave is cold. The three of us had dry floor to sleep on, but with more than four in a group, someone would sleep on a damp floor at this time of year.

This is the cave nearest the pass, viewed from the approach path, the second cave - Spare Rib - can just be made out to the left of the left hand edge of the first cave.

The first cave with the mossy, sloping, rocky floor looking back from the path to Spare Rib Cave, with Bannerman Pass in the background.

The path between the two caves, viewed from Spare Rib Cave, with Richard standing at the edge of the other cave. There is also a small overhang between the two caves, behind elinda. Note the other overhangs on the other side of the pass.

The largest sleeping area in Spare Rib Cave.

Spare Rib Cave is spacious inside, unlike the other cave.

Smurf, I've got some pictures of Bannerman Cave, I'll put them on that thread. It's a bit tricky to get photos of Bannerman Cave from a distance, because it's set back in a 'corner' in the rock face, and the steep slope outside the cave makes it difficult to stand back far enough to get the cave surrounds in a photo and still show the cave, but I'll see what I've got.
Smurfatefrog's Avatar
Smurfatefrog replied to: #59174 05 Dec 2013 18:24
Thanks Tony

Did you get any pics of Bannerman Cave, especially one showing it from a distance?
Here is the Bannerman Cave thread

Ghaz, I've also only been to the damp Spare Rib cave
ghaznavid's Avatar
ghaznavid replied to: #59173 05 Dec 2013 18:05
Thanks for sharing - sadly I never knew where the proper cave was when I did Bannerman Pass. Every time I did Bannerman Pass I ended up sitting in the horrible cave waiting for a storm to pass. Not really a pass I plan on repeating.

It was the 2nd pass I ever did, Langies was the 3rd. Memories of my many failed attempts on Popple. That was before I was on VE, 3rd fail on Popple was just after I joined - anyone keen for a historical Ghaznavid-making -excuses-for-not-getting-up-Poppole-Peak writeup? 3 hikes - 3 different excuses. Got plenty of pics :thumbsup:
tonymarshall's Avatar
tonymarshall replied to: #59172 05 Dec 2013 17:51
We had arrived at Spare Rib Cave before the rain, but there were so many drips from the roof of the cave that it was almost like rain inside. We could get water easily in the cave from the drips near the pool of water in the long grass in the photo below. There were also many other caves and overhangs in the nearby rock bands.

The cave afforded a good view down the pass to Bannerman Hut, and of the approaching clouds and storm, and it rained on and off during the late afternoon and evening.

Spare Rib Cave from the approach path, which contours from the pass past the other cave.

We settled in to the driest sleeping areas, although each spot still had occasional drips from the roof.

Sunday morning we headed up the pass, with cloud covering Natal below.

Up to the height of the waterfalls, the pass has a lot of boulders,

and then a longish grassy slope up to the top.

We had a break at the top of Bannerman Pass, and took some group photos with the blanket of cloud in the background.

Then it was up and over the Sanquebethu ridge, before heading towards Langalibalele Pass with a visit to Bannerman Cave on the way down the ridge. We had mist and rain the whole way down Langlibalele Pass, and I won’t do a write up of Langalibalele Pass as the poor visibility didn’t permit any good photos of the pass.
tonymarshall's Avatar
tonymarshall replied to: #59171 05 Dec 2013 17:46
Last weekend, elinda, Richard Hunt, and tonymarshall did a hike up Bannerman Pass and down Langalibalele Pass. We left from Giants Castle car park, dropping down into the valley to cross the Bushmans River, before following the Bannerman Path along the valley up to the Contour Path. The Bannerman Path was used as a firebreak edge and divides the burnt and unburnt sections of grass in the photo below.

Once we reached the top of the ridge, Bannerman Pass was visible, at the centre of the photo below. The adjacent peaks are The Thumb, Bannerman Face and Gypaetus Point.

After Bannerman Path joined the Contour Path, we headed northeast along the Contour Path towards Bannerman Hut for this view of Bannerman Hut and Bannerman Pass.

We had lunch at the hut, which was clean inside, with table and benches and bunk beds in place, before heading up the slope towards Bannerman Pass.

We had decided to overnight in Spare Rib Cave, about halfway between Bannerman Hut and the top of Bannerman Pass. The cave was visible from the hut, and is in the lower rock band to the left (true right) of the pass, at the centre of the photo below.

The clouds had been building up all around since midday, but the pass stayed clear, although we could see the storm over Natal was moving nearer as we ascended the lower reaches of the pass.

Soon we were below the rock band with Spare Rib Cave; there are two caves, the one nearest the pass is quite damp and you walk past it to the next one which is better.

There are three waterfalls near the top of Bannerman Pass on the left (true right), the middle one is the prominent one in the photo below.

ghaznavid's Avatar
ghaznavid replied to: #54899 10 Aug 2012 18:59
Bannerman Pass as at yesterday evening:
intrepid's Avatar
intrepid replied to: #54781 02 Aug 2012 20:26
Have done it in winter but not recently. The top bit was filled with thick snow which seems to stay relatively well preserved because of the shade. This is after the cave however when going up. Things were dry and burnt below the cave. The hut did have flowing water at the time though.
ghaznavid's Avatar
ghaznavid replied to: #54712 27 Jul 2012 07:22
There is normally water quite far up the pass (till about half way, so past Spare Rib Cave), but I have never been up there in winter (only summer and autumn), but I imagine the pass gets very little sun in winter and the water is probably all frozen.

With regards to Spare Rib Cave, have you been there before? The inside of the cave looks like this:

It won't be that wet in winter, but its not flat, its rocky, its cold and miserable. It definitely doesn't sleep 12. If you do sleep there, make sure you have tons of warm clothing...

On the bright side, Bannerman Pass is awesome, in my opinion the view from the top is one of the best bits of escarpment in the entire range, and Spare Rib Cave is really easy to find, you can see it from almost everywhere on the pass.
Sabine's Avatar
Sabine replied to: #54711 27 Jul 2012 05:52
Has anyone done this pass recently or in winter? What is the situation with water up the pass? Where is the last water before Spare-Rib cave?
heath's Avatar
heath replied to: #53235 15 Mar 2012 05:47
Thanks Guys

Thats kinda what I've been expecting regarding the long day.

I appreciate the advice!
ghaznavid's Avatar
ghaznavid replied to: #53234 14 Mar 2012 16:02
As Kliktrak says - the pass is only 3km but takes roughly 4 hours due to the loose rocks. This is the only berg pass where trekking poles are actually annoying. Consider overnighting in Bannerman Hut and tackling the pass first thing in the morning, dont even consider sleeping in Spare Rib Cave, its not flat, the floor is rocky and its damp and covered in moss, its just a horrible cave.

If you are not planning on going anywhere from the top of the pass, it is possible to conquer the pass and return to the car park with overnighting in Bannerman Hut in a day, or you can even walk over the ridge past Senqebethu and descend via the walk-in-the-park that is Langalibalele Pass...
kliktrak's Avatar
kliktrak replied to: #53233 14 Mar 2012 15:22

Yes it is possible, but will be a long day - the key is too leave early even by 6/7am to ensure you are out of the pass with enough daylight to pitch tents etc - depending on the level of these "newbies" you will need approx 4hrs to do the pass alone from my experience.

The hike to Bannermans hut and foot of the pass also mustnt be underestimated, it is long and has a sustained gradient, and the section on the contour path is not flat and twists in and out of few gulleys/over ridges. So assess energy levels before the pass, as you dont want to get stuck in there in the dark.
heath's Avatar
heath replied to: #53231 14 Mar 2012 13:40
Hi Guys

Has anyone done Bannermann Pass?
If so is it possible to make it up in one day with some newbies?

I know that the pass itself isnt very difficult but it is a long walk in.